Into The Third Year…

While Ramadan is often a lifetime practice (young children, the elderly and the sick are specifically excluded,) those like me who are not necessarily of Muslim faith or were not born into it likely find themselves re-evaluating it every year.  In the beginning, it’s easy to say that you are trying it for the sake of greater understanding, or even (on a somewhat shallower basis) the “bragging rights” that allow you to say you have overcome a challenge such as this.  However, after the initial novelty wears off, you’re left with the question of why, and ultimately the answer is as individual as the person asking the question.

You’ve previously read that some of us participate in Ramadan in support of our friend Leslie who was raised Muslim and has been observing Ramadan most of her life.  That is no less true this year, but made even more appropriate as she prepares to make a monumental move to Japan and the next chapter of her life at the end of this month.  But beyond the appropriateness of the situation, it brings up some interesting questions, such as; After three years of observing Ramadan, will we stop doing so because the person we supported is no longer personally here?  Or has it become enough of a boon on our lives and enough of a positive habit to stick with it indefinitely?  Leslie will of course continue to observe Ramadan from Japan, and we can support her in spirit, but part of the purpose here was to provide personal support, and that role will have to be filled by people there if possible.

I’ll admit that I actually, for a few moments, considered not participating in Ramadan this year.  I told myself this month was too busy and that I had too many events going on.  I need to focus more at work and the demands are higher than they typically have been in the past.  So basically my excuse was life, life, and more life.  The same as any other year.  But the fact that I even had to ask myself tells me that I can use this discipline check.  As a yearly reset button on your life, Ramadan is a perfect opportunity to re-align your good habits and do away with some of the bad ones.  People participate in Ramadan all over the world in conditions I can hardly fathom.  So no, I’m not “too busy” and work will not keep me from this.  I’ll just have to budget my time accordingly and force myself to focus under less than ideal circumstances.  That will make me stronger and appreciate the usual time and freedom I have.  (Such appreciation is one of Ramadan’s many rewards.)

It’s 4:21 PM on the first day of my third year of observing Ramadan.  My nose is running, my mouth is overproducing saliva, I’m a bit light-headed, there’s a faint ringing in my ears, and I have to take a little extra time to compose my thoughts and speak clearly.  In other words, it’s all coming back to me.  This is going to be a great month!

Salaam

-Jordan

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Good Food and The White Thread

Great day yesterday!  I had proper rest,  plenty of time for Suhoor (morning breakfast before Dawn) and the day went smoothly.  My hunger came later than normal my state of mind was calm and peaceful (for the most part) and my energy drop was not as severe as it had been.  I broke my fast that night (Iftar) with a wonderful sushi meal.  It should be noted that though many understand the fasting as “no food or water” and see it as a self punishment or torture, the idea has NOTHING to do with suffering.  It IS a challenge, yes, but the rewards are many.  Think of it more as happily working for something worthwhile, or making a positive  investment. For instance, one of the objects of Ramadan fasting is to increase your gratitude for the miracle of food.  Trust me, it does.

Though a small band of us are participating in Ramadan and planning meals with each other, for the most part I do not have a set family to eat my meals with and I am not a part of the local Muslim community (for obvious reasons.)  As such, Iftar is often a solo meal for me, or one which I share with one other person.  The downside is that I miss out on some of the community (I hesitate to say all because my little group of Ramadan participants HAS been quite helpful/supportive.)  The upside is that I can travel to restaurants and enjoy foods that I normally would with a “Ramadan enhanced” experience.  What I mean is, after fasting for fifteen hours of no food or water, anything that already tasted good, becomes amazing.  The other day I had a simple burrito from Moe’s.  Certainly not fine food (and honestly not the nutrition your body should have while consistently fasting…) but I took a bite of it and it was the BEST steak burrito I could remember having.  I literally had to pause and chew (as we should) and let the flavor fade from my mouth before continuing.  Endorphins ran and the flavors were SO intense, truly amazing.  The same was the case last night with my sushi dinner (a bit healthier at least.)  Ponzu sauce is among my favorite flavors anywhere.  It is nearly addictive to me.  The sushi I ordered came with a spicy version of this sauce.  Again, it tasted AMAZING.  Much to Leslie’s amusement, I literally had to pause  between bites and savor the flavor.  Until it faded, I couldn’t even carry on a conversation properly.

My message in telling you this is not that you should fast so food tastes better, but that it is one example of the many positives that people who observe Ramadan regularly experience.  There ARE many positives, and that’s one of the reasons people like Leslie and her mother regret when they cannot fast.  Perhaps MORE important to stress is that the physical is a lesser benefit than the mental/spiritual aspects of Ramadan.  Though they may not be immediately physically obvious, they are far more profound and beneficial in the long run throughout our lives.  I certainly did not decide to participate this year because I remembered how good the food tasted.

This morning was a… unique experience.  I slept well and awoke to my alarm without issue.  In my sleepy haze I went to the kitchen nibble on cheese, drink water, take my vitamins and prepare my breakfast.  My Keurig produced a wonderful smelling cup of Starbucks coffee, and I took two bites of my breakfast before I looked down and saw that it was… 5:48!?!  After my initial shock, followed by swearing out loud (oops..) I remembered that the morning of the day before I had set my alarm not for wake up time, but to signal me the beginning of Fajr… and I had forgotten to set it back!!  I immediately set my breakfast down and looked at my coffee longingly.  It is said that if you are unaware that you are breaking your fast, it is considered a blessing and so long as you stop moment you realize, your fast is not void.  So I resolved that today would be a challenge day, and I would not eat or drink any more.  I was grateful at least for the one glass of water I’d had and my vitamins, but I knew that without a proper meal my work day would be more difficult.  As much as I hated wasting food and the wonderful coffee, I couldn’t bring myself to intentionally void my fast, nobody would know, and I could make it up… but I would know, and god would know.  That’s the point, after all.  As Leslie says, Ramadan is between you and god (Allaah.)

As I was getting ready, and thankful that I still felt a bit full from the previous night’s meal, it occurred to me that there had been much confusion as to when you are commanded to begin the fast each day.  Last year, we had decided (on the advice of a Muslim) that sunrise was when to begin the fast.  However, this year, when researching further, we found that to be incorrect and instead decided to adhere to the tradition of Suhoor before Fajr.  Of course, this is a very safe and accepted practice, and though there is argument about having Suhoor too early (some are very firm on it being bi’dah), generally it is regarded as overachieving (which in regards to pleasing god is never a bad thing.)  So I got onto the internet and decided to educate myself further.  The sun was not up, there was no light at all outside, it was night.  I wanted to understand what the specific accepted rule was, and if I had truly risked voiding my fast by forgetting to set my alarm (this time a blessing.. but at some point negligence.)   After a bit of searching, all the questions about this (and there are many!) referred back to this scripture:

 

“and eat and drink until the white thread (light) of dawn appears to you distinct from the black thread (darkness of night), then complete your Sawm (fast) till the nightfall”

[al-Baqarah 2:187]

 

One of the better (clearer) elaborations on this was the following passage:

“It is permissible to eat and drink until the dawn appears, which is the white thread of light that Allaah has made the latest time when it is permissible to eat and drink. When the second dawn appears, it is haraam to eat and drink and do other things that break the fast. Whoever drinks whilst hearing the adhaan for Fajr, if the adhaan comes after the second dawn, then he has to make up that day, but if that was before dawn, then he does not have to make it up. ”

 

As it turns out, the Fajr times that we are using are well before sunrise or dawn, and to be clear dawn IS NOT sunrise (dawn is about 25 min earlier in my region.)  Most likely the times we use are based on the times that are considered “safe” in order to not risk voiding our fast.  As such, after this research it was still completely dark outside, and I looked up the times for dawn and sunrise in my region.  Since first light is at dawn, I found that time and it gave me… approximately 8 minutes!!!

I decided that I would eat the food I had prepared and drink more water before dawn, and would consider myself safe for fasting.  It’s the smartest thing to do as I will be much more effective at work (which is honestly my primary concern.)  I truly felt that god and I agreed on this and that I am, in fact, not in violation of Allaah’s words in the Qur’an.   However, with that said, I will likely attempt to feed another less fortunate person as a matter of principle and to be certain I am not in error.  Also, regardless of my discovery I will continue to awaken 30 min before the Fajr times we’re using.  I feel it is promoting good habits and I prefer that safety as opposed to operating in error out of ignorance.

Of course I welcome feedback regarding this (and all) topics.

Salaam

-Jordan

Ramadan Mubarak

I’m often conflicted about writing here because fasting is such a personal endeavor for me.

I haven’t been fasting this week for several reasons, and won’t begin until Saturday.  While I am technically not supposed to fast right now, even if it weren’t for this technicality I probably still would choose not to until after I complete my comprehensive exam on Friday.  This is a very difficult decision that is between myself and God, and in this, the person fasting should not have to answer to anyone else.  I think that’s something that’s always appealed to me in fasting.  I answer to no one but myself and my own choices, and an omnipresent being that I feel exists somewhere…out there…I like to think that being is merciful (and logical) and would understand my decision.  But I guess everyone has their own interpretation of things.

So, before Ramadan starts there’s always these conflicting feelings of apprehension and excitement.  Because as Jordan said…it’s not easy.  But there is so much enlightenment to look forward to.  The realization of how blessed you are, how strong you can be, and how much you can learn about yourself.  Even through the exhaustion and sometimes the pain, forcing oneself to be positive uplifts the soul.

I feel as if this year I’ve been provided with a different perspective because I have not yet started fasting from the beginning of the month.  It’s frustrating, and I’m tired of waiting.  I want to start fasting NOW.  It is partially a matter of circumstance and partially a matter of choice due to necessity, but nonetheless I feel a little lost as a result.  And I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not a terribly patient person, so I am doing what I can to keep in the spirit of the month even though I am not physically fasting.  This means trying not to be frustrated and demand so much of my circumstances.

My mother is physically unable to fast the vast majority of the time for health reasons, and she will probably be unable to do so for the rest of her life.  I am often told of how people who can’t fast for Ramadan, miss it desperately and wish that they could.  It makes me feel a little forlorn thinking about it, but I don’t wish to pity them.  As Jordan told me, they’ve paid their dues and have in many ways come to terms with their role in life.  But given the fact that I am not fasting right now, even if it would be from choice, I have a small glimpse of what that sadness feels like.

But it reminds me too, that fasting isn’t just physical, and that we can consciously choose to fast mentally and emotionally…which right now for me is terribly difficult.  So perhaps not being able to physically fast for a little while is what I need to focus on the mental, emotional and spiritual side of things, as a means of getting me through the challenges I’ve been experiencing.  And then hopefully the physical fast will provide me with that re-set that I desperately need right now.

We get so caught up in life, and in work and school and family, and what we feel like absolutely needs to be done to survive and be happy.  And we get so caught up that we forget to be grateful for what we have and just live life.  And fasting sort of makes you stop and think for a second, about the things that are important to you, versus the things that the world says should be important to you.  I think it provides one of the clearest paths to self realization.

As I’m writing this, I’m listening to the soundtrack for a movie called Beasts of the Southern Wild.  It is hauntingly exciting and beautiful, and I highly recommend it.  Even if you aren’t fasting, I challenge you to take ten minutes a day to find something beautiful to really appreciate, or something great or small to be thankful for, every day for the rest of the month of Ramadan.  I’m confident that even such a small gesture will contribute positively overall to your life.

Every time I write, I also want to try to include something informative or interesting about Ramadan/Islam.  It’s getting late, so I’ll leave you with this website:

Under My Olive Tree – Iftar for Orphans 2012

Under My Olive Tree is a non-profit philanthropic organization in Jordan that was created by a Jordanian/Palestinian acquaintance of my family.  Among its other endeavors such as helping to provide tuition for students, helping the poor and disadvantaged find jobs, and pay for medical expenses, for the third year they are providing iftar (the meal for breaking the fast) for a number of orphans in Jordan every day for the month of Ramadan.  If you have twitter, search the hash tag #OrphansIftar and you’ll get to see pictures of the children that Ali posts on a regular basis.  It really is quite beautiful.

Salaam,

Leslie

Did I mention this is hard?

After participating in Ramadan last year, I had the silly idea in my mind that I knew what to expect.  I suppose intellectually I do, but no matter how well I remembered the facts of it, the experience is much.. sharper than the memory.  It’s now 7:11 PM on my third day of fasting (It’s officially the 6th day of Ramadan, as I mentioned I had been traveling.)  I’m still at work, my head is ringing, I feel slightly warm and a bit woozy.  As expected for this time of day, I’m in a bit of a fog but still operational.  With all that said, today was tough!  Part of it probably stems from waking up late this morning after not getting enough sleep.  I cannot stress ENOUGH that proper rest is SO important if you wish to function properly while fasting.  As such, between the lack of that, and a hurried breakfast before Fajr today was a trial for me (And would be considered a blessing in a sense.)

I’ve been under increased pressure from my boss (Grandmaster) lately.  He has been in a sort of “go mode” that he sometimes slips into in which everything must be done now and if not he will hover over you until you do as he says.  As a designer, this is one of the most irritating things a boss can do, however Grandmaster is a good man and I normally have the patience to handle his demands. When your body is adjusting to a fast and you have already not eaten in eight or more hours, such patience becomes a MUCH more difficult feat to accomplish.  Those who have not experienced physical circumstances like this probably can’t fully comprehend how majorly something like Ramadan can affect your mindset and the thoughts you produce.  More than a few times I had to put real effort into switching myself from negativity and trying to focus on being productive and grateful for what I have.  Of course, this is a KEY point to the act of Ramadan.  I have seen it written that for the rest of the year we feed our bodies and starve our spirit, and Ramadan is when we choose to starve our bodies so that we may properly feed our spirit.  While I’m not sure I would take that literally (I like to think I feed my spirit for more than a month a year), the message is clear.

Beyond that (especially today) the physical symptoms seem to be magnified.  I have been drained all day and was literally dozing at my desk this afternoon (near 5PM.)  The ringing in my ears has been persistent, and I feel a bit feverish.  And even as I write this I need to pause in order to compose my thoughts.  The moral is that THIS is the challenge.  This is what makes us grow and shows us what we can do under difficult circumstances.  Despite my inner-negativity I regarded Grandmaster with respect and action, and as such won a battle over myself (though it was closer than I would like it to be.)

I have other challenges ahead.  Just functioning normally isn’t enough.  There is a belt testing coming in about a week and a half in which it has been said I should test.  I’m currently not prepared for that test, and if I hope to be, I’ll have to find a way to refresh and learn a lot in a short amount of time.  I could easily skip it, but it would also be an impressive feat to test in spite of my fasting.  Last year Emely trained fairly regularly despite Ramadan, and tonight Ashley is taking a class as well (Granted, in fairness she has been able to nap throughout the day).  Regardless, they have set a good example for me.

Balance: Closed Body and Open Mind

Annnnd we’re back.  Welcome to my second year of participation in Ramadan.  I realize I’m a few days late, I have been traveling and will make up those days in traditional manner.  Ironically, my late start is for the same reason I ended my fast early last year:  It just so happened that the Dave Matthews Band did their run in Florida during this last weekend.  We had tickets before we realized it was Ramadan, but even if we’d known, it’s likely we would’ve made the exception anyway.  As I said, I will be sure to appropriately make up the days I missed according to tradition (and then some.)

In many cultures, having a closed body is considered a virtue and a blessing.  Some stories say that existing in such a state makes you physically invulnerable.  It occurred to me that Ramadan is literally closing your body while the sun is up.  In contrast, it is an exercise to open and expand your mind despite the physical difficulties.  As long as the mind is kept pure and disciplined, the advantages of the closed body remain, but should the mind corrupt, and the body follow, then the advantages disappear and you are left vulnerable to the evils of the world.

This is not Islamic scripture specifically, but it rings true in a metaphorical sense.  I’ve said in the past that keeping my mind in the right place is a greater challenge for me (fortunately I don’t have to make up days for the occasionally dirty thought.. I would be perpetually making up Ramadan days…)  However, by striving to keep the mind controlled and disciplined, you greatly ease the burden on your body (through routine, proper rest, etc) and at the same time allow yourself the freedom to look at things differently and develop habits that might normally take a back seat to everyday life.  Changing your circumstances can produce astounding insights into yourself and the people around you.  Speaking of which, my efforts last year have spread; My friends Ashley, Anissa, Joe, Jessica and Nick are joining Leslie and I this year for various reasons (interestingly enough, none of them are Muslim either..)  Our friend Emely from last year may not be able to participate this year for medical reasons, but if not she certainly wanted to, and will be with us in spirit.

So anyway, it’s been just under three hours since I finished my coffee and my last water of the morning (Thank you Starbucks for serving me early.. they normally don’t open until 5:30!!)  Obviously I’m fine meal-wise but my saliva production is already noticeably up and I’m a bit tired because I kept waking up all night worried I would sleep through my opportunity for breakfast.  Otherwise though, I’m happy with my support structure and I have faith that many of us will benefit from Ramadan this year.

Salaam,

-Jordan

Re-readjusting

It’s almost the end of Ramdan, and I am done fasting.  It is that time of the month and I’ve decided that given how much it’s kicked me in the face already, to not fast at the same time.  I don’t want to see what might happen if I did.  I will not be fasting the last few days since I will be travelling to New York.

I am sad.  I am happy.  I feel a little guilty that there are so many other people still fasting, especially my friends.  I am so unvelieveably proud of them.

The first day that I had food in the middle of the day, Tuesday, I didn’t eat much and almost immediately my stomach cramped at the unusual presence of food.  Not only is starting the fast an adjustment, but ending it can be just as much so.  This is the challenging part because now you have to make sure you transition into maintaining all of the (hopefully) good habits that you developed and maintained during the month, for as long as possible.  Smaller portion sizes, more water, hopefully eating better, a spirit of giving , positivity and good thoughts.  I still feel kind of dirty cursing and I find that the PMS is making me randomly angry at silly things, so it’s a good exercise in patience.

I have decided this year instead of making up the days that I am going to go a different route and donate to feed the needy/hungry.  Making up days after the fact can be extremely difficult, especially if you don’t have the support in others fasting with you, and it will be even more so after travelling and eating out for 4-5 days.  Now I’m looking forward to taking care of myself, to eating better, and to finally exercising again regularly.  It’s taking some time to build my energy back up, but I’m getting there and it is a fulfilling feeling all in itself.

The very first day of Ramadan, at the end of the day I went and ran a mile outside which is pretty momentous for me because I’m terrible at running.  It was the first time I was able to go a mile straight outdoors.  Getting the endurance to run outside and training my body to breathe the right way has been especially difficult for me, so running that mile when I was exhausted and starving blew my mind.  After exercising maybe a grand total of 5 times in the past 3 1/2 weeks (which has been killing me), I successfully jogged for 2 miles outside for the first time last night, when two months ago I could barely go a quarter mile.  I’m not entirely sure how, but it felt really friggen good.  And that’s another thing I mean by re-set.  Fasting just does something to you, mind and body, that makes it feel like you can do anything.

Eid Al-Fitr is the 3 day holiday at the end of Ramadan (this year, August 30-September 1) where we celebrate the end of the month with feasting and gift giving, visiting family and friends.  I’m not a part of the Islamic community here, nor do I really want to be since I don’t really subscribe to organized religion and believe that we can take good from all religions.  It’s been a while and makes me happy to be able to share that again with people who know what it’s like to go through this month.   Ramadan and Eid are very much a part of my personal spiritual beliefs, but it’s also about my heritage and the culture I grew up with.

Salaam,

Leslie

The Long Hard Run and Bonus Points +2

I stated recently that one of my goals before my fast ended was to try to run.  Since I only had a few days left before we leave for New York,  it had to be soon.  Yesterday, toward the end of my work day I was feeling pretty good energy wise despite being REALLY hungry.   So, I resolved to run.  If not now, then when (right?).  Even getting to the point of the run was a challenge though.  First, I got out of work later than I wanted.  So late, that by the time I got home I was past 7:30 in the evening.  Right now the breaking of our fast happens right around 8:00 pm, so already I was tempted to relax.  However, I knew that my time was limited, and despite it being late, my schedule best allowed for the Monday run.  So I grabbed my trusty iPod shuffle from the charger (I had made SURE to charge it!) and donned my running gear.  Some runners hate listening to music when they run, I know of one person who actually finds it annoying, but for me it aids in motivation and the meditation of the run.  Long distance running for me is quite meditative.

Then came challenge number two: my “trusty” iPod had finally died.  In its defense it’s a first generation iPod, and it’s served me well despite my higher than average bio-electric rhythm (I can’t wear watches, very annoying).  So I double-checked to be SURE the charger had not failed, but even plugged in I got no light from the old shuffle.  It’s dead Jim.  As time continued to pass I nearly gave up on the run, considering the fast and not having eaten or drank anything on nearly thirteen hours, running without musical motivation was not acceptable.  After some thought and brainstorming, I decided I would use my phone.  As cumbersome as it is with its hardcore case (which has DEFINITELY paid for itself…), it was better than nothing.  So I went digging to find the old armband I used to use for my old full-sized iPod Classic.  I finally found it, and after a great deal of effort forcing my phone fit into the sleeve (case and all), I stretched, and was out the door running by 7:48 pm.  It was only twelve minutes until sundown.

The run started as expected.  I had to force myself to slow down from my typical starting pace because the energy to sustain that just wasn’t there.  My breathing became harder, sooner, and it took a considerable amount of extra effort to keep my legs moving, especially when during inclines.  That said, while it required more focus sooner, the first half of the run went relatively smooth, if not better than expected.  Shortly after the second mile, as I was wondering where exactly my body was finding the water to sweat, I noticed a couple of people on the side of my running trail standing and looking at something.  As I got closer, I realized the small splotch on the ground was actually a baby Alligator!  Somehow the little guy had made it all the way up onto the running train ans was standing to the side of it, motionless, with its mouth open.  Most likely it was terrified by the two people and the dog standing near it.  As much as I REALLY wanted to stop and take a picture, I could not afford to interrupt my run.  I had something to prove.

Once I reached the second half of the run, the challenge level had increased considerably.  My throat was completely dry, and I doubt I could have talked had I wanted to.  I was having to push myself a great deal more, and I was exhausted regardless.  Somewhere deep down I knew I had a little bit more that I could give it, but I was waiting as long as I could to let it go, because once it was gone, I was pretty much done.  So I held out as long as I could, and was within 1.5 – 2 miles (the same area that I saw the baby gator on the way out), a shooting star fell from the sky in front of me.  It was bright enough that even with the soccer field lights in front of me I saw it clearly.  Shooting stars have always had a special meaning to me, so I knew that was my sign to give it everything I had left and power my way home.  By the last mile I was shot.  The last of my reserves was gone, and I was literally pushing forward through sheer force of will.  Then somehow, within the last half mile, the right song came on, and out of nowhere I got a crazed rush of random energy.  Because of that I made it home and completed my run at 9:01 pm, about ten to fifteen minutes

Recovery was touch and go for a while.  I was afraid I might get sick, and despite the fact that I was long past sundown, my appetite was gone. Of course, I drank a lot of water as slowly as I could, but even that was threatening to make me sick.  It was a half-hour later before I was able to shower and then felt normal enough to eat.  But despite that, I did it, and I felt very strong and accomplished.  Even Tanya, who takes every opportunity to give me a hard time couldn’t say anything other than that she was impressed.  To think, I can complete 6.5 miles when I haven’t eaten or drank anything in nearly thirteen hours.  It means I’m incredibly stupid, but also that if I put my mind to something, I can accomplish it if I just keep pushing myself forward.  I went to be happy and accomplished.

So today, unexpectedly, another opportunity presented itself to me.  I mentioned last blog that I will make up the days by donating to the local food bank over the course of the year.  I have already committed to that, and I am satisfied that I have met the requirements of such a task.  However, I had also told myself that if given the opportunity, I would take the chance to further feed the hungry more directly, as I felt like that was one of the things lacking in my make-up activities.

I was taking my daily walk nearby my workplace for Zuhr as I have since Ramadan began.  I’ve had a couple of interesting things happen to me on my walk.  Once, well before I was to make up the days, I was approached by a couple of homeless men, one of which was very obviously not totally right in the head (as in literally brain-damaged).  They asked if I knew the closest place for them to rest nearby or where they could find shade.  I told them I’d seen people lounging under the trees, but I wasn’t aware of a specific place (I really am not.)  As it was the man shook my hand, and I apologized for not being better help before being on my way.  The second time, I was compelled to take a longer walk around the block, and as a result came across a very NICE torch style lamp sitting on the side of the road.  At first, I passed it by thinking it was probably damaged.  But then I felt compelled to go back.  I did, and I took it with me, it now sits nicely in my living room.

Today’s walk was more exceptional.  On the last leg as I was approaching the block where I work, I looked over to see two men sitting in the shade.  They were obviously of the local homeless and I wondered if I shouldn’t feed them.  My mind came up with all kinds of reasons not to; One looked like he was already eating and the other was talking on a cell phone.  With that kind of money they could obviously feed themselves.  So I prepared to move on, but after a few steps, I felt compelled to go back.  I had already had the thought, so if I left now I wasn’t going to be happy with myself.  Slowly I approached the men and put my hands up in a non-threatening  gesture.   There is no doubt that they are likely used to being told to leave various places, and I was dressed fairly official looking so I wanted to be sure they were at ease.  Once I had their attention, I asked if they were still hungry.  Immediately  their eyes lit up and the man I saw eating explained to me that the only thing he had was the peanut butter he had been scooping out of the jar with his finger.  I told them I planned to grab a few burgers from Wendy’s and asked if they would like some, at which point one called me a “knight in shining armor” and the other simply replied “yes, please”.  So I left and picked up about $7 worth of Wendy’s: 4 double cheeseburgers, fries, and 2 cups of water.  I asked for larger cups for the water, and made sure to fill them with more ice so they would last a bit in the heat.

When I returned with the food it was both pleasant and expected.  One of the men got up, and asked me my name.  He then shook my hand and continued to thank me, not pathetically, but with pride.  It was a genuine thank you.  The other man also thanked me, but also asked if I had any more money.  I told him that I had spent what I could spare on the food, and apologized for not giving more.  I DID have more cash, but considering I had just provided food, I wasn’t convinced any extra money was going to be used for anything constructive.  As I went to leave the genuine man thanked me again, and I told him it was no problem, I said “Just try to stay positive, you never know what can happen.”  As I walked off the other man offered me a beer, which I politely declined.

So I get to add two to my “feed the hungry” tally, and I feel much more validated about the days I needed to make up.  I told myself that if the opportunity was presented, I would oblige, and I’m happy that when I was faced with it, I lived up to my end of the bargain.  Resolving to help others in your mind, and then not backing down when faced with the chance to do so.  That is a great part of the spirit of Ramadan.

Salaam

–Jordan

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